Looking back at the fourth annual Feast Portland food festival, I encourage you to start making plans to attend the fifth. Feast Portland’s slogan: “A Celebration of Oregon Bounty” is apt, with grand tastings, workshops and seminars, celebrity chef dinners, and the four main events that anchor each of the four festival days.
The event vibe is Portlandia casual, but the presentation has been polished from year one, with Bon Appétit providing support as the national media partner. Attendees can buy a package for admission to all the marquee events (excluding the Dinner Series), or purchase tickets a la carte. For those wanting to pick and choose, I recommend starting with at least one of these anchor events:
1. Sandwich Invitational: About 16 local and non-local chefs prepare unique sandwiches in competition for judging and people’s choice awards. Attendees always remark that this event is filling and fun, kicking things off on a Thursday night. This year’s chefs included Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes, and Alvin Cailan of Eggslut.
2. Night Market: The world comes to the Willamette shore in this festive event full of Asian (and global) flavors. The most popular Feast offering, it really captures the sights, sounds, and smells of a night market. And I believe it offers some of the best flavors of the entire festival. Seattle chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule, Revel, and Trove have participated two years in a row.
3. Smoked!: Debuting this year, this event is fun in watching the chefs play with fire. Resulting dishes were imaginative, from an oyster luge to a massive rabbit and prawn paella to a smoked Snickers bar with Marionberry and smoked honey. And then there were the attendees, walking while gnawing on Flintstones-like beef bones…
4. Brunch Village: In its second year running, this Sunday closing event brings ambitious tastings (boozy and otherwise) to bleary-eyed revelers. Fresh-cooked this year were sous-vide Turkish eggs, aebleskivers (Danish apple pancakes), sweet and savory madeleines, and much more. (There were also coffee and Bloody Mary bars.)
Friday and Saturday afternoons feature the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, with plenty of opportunity to sample food and beverages from local restaurants and artisans while enjoying live entertainment. It’s here that USA Pears held its second straight pop-up restaurant-a 15-minute, 3-course affair for seven people at a time. Seattle chef Brian Clevenger of Vendemmia participated at the pop-up, pairing pears with oysters, foie gras, and rabbit.
If all this doesn’t offer enough food, there’s the Dinner Series that typically pairs two (or more) chefs to create a unique experience for a small number of festival-goers. This year, I was lucky enough to land a seat at a dinner by James Beard winners Andy Ricker (Pok Pok and more) and Paul Qui (Austin-based Top Chef winner), who put together a family-style Asian feast. The dinners are the priciest events, but feasters can feel satisfied knowing that proceeds from Feast Portland benefit Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Share Our Strength, a national organization aimed at ending childhood hunger.
Next year’s dates are September 15-18, and I recommend keeping an eye on the Feast Portland website, as certain events (especially the dinners) can sell out in a flash. With 2016 being the 5th birthday celebration, the schedule may change a bit, but likely only for the better-and fittingly only bigger.
Originally published on Seattle Dining!. Photos by John Valls, courtesy of Feast Portland.